If you search the internet, you may see ads that banana peels, strawberries (by themselves or mixed with baking soda) or charcoal will whiten your teeth without the typical expense associated with teeth whitening products. Do they work? Under scrutiny, most claims of whitening don’t hold up, though some products do reduce stains. Here are some of the more popular ones:
Banana Peels: This seems to date back to a post on Pinterest from 2012 that according to some sources has since been removed. The claim was that rubbing your teeth with a banana peel for 2 minutes a day would whiten the teeth. If you search further though, you will see a number of dentists and magazine authors who have tried this method and seen no whitening of their teeth. The other concern is that bananas do have some sugar, so this method basically puts sugar on your teeth. (Sugar activates bacteria that cause cavities!)
Strawberries (either by themselves or mixed with baking soda to make a paste): A study published in 2015 left this paste on teeth for 5 minutes a day and found that the mixture did help remove plaque and stains from teeth, which might give the illusion of whiter teeth, but there was no actual bleaching of the tooth color. As with bananas, strawberries do contain sugar—though the baking soda might counteract some of the acid produced by the activated bacteria.
Charcoal: This seems to be the newest whitening fad—so new in fact that we aren’t sure of how effective it is or if the charcoal will damage your tooth enamel with the rubbing action required.
So, it seems if you want effective results, you should choose products that say they will bleach (not just whiten) teeth. Whitening can be deceiving since it may be a false result based on removal of stains rather than actually changing the tooth color to a lighter one. Buying this type of product may cost a bit more at the time, but you should get reliable results without damaging your teeth, which will save you time and money in the long run.
Jennifer G. Robb, DMD is a general dentist who treats adults and children at her office located at 1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. Call 440-960-1940.